NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Fewer Americans Marrying, More Living Together

January 7, 1999

New Census Bureau data show that greater numbers of Americans are choosing to live together as couples outside the bounds of marriage.

  • In 1998, 56 percent of U.S. adults were married and living with their spouses -- a proportion which has declined by 12 percentage points in less than 20 years.
  • Meanwhile, the number of "unmarried-couple households" has increased eightfold since 1970 -- from 523,000 to 4,236,000.
  • Ten percent of the adult population is currently divorced -- up from 3.2 percent in 1970.
  • Currently, 14 million Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 -- or 35 percent of that age group -- have never been married.

Experts report that the same trends are occurring in Europe and Asia. In fact, the divorce rate in China is so high that the authorities are considering anti-divorce laws. In Taiwan, there has been a 600 percent increase in divorce since 1970.

Sources: Terry A. Lugaila, "Marital Status and Living Arrangements: March 1998 (Update)," December 1998, U.S. Bureau of the Census, Washington, D.C.; August Gribbin, "Americans in No Rush to Marry," Washington Times, January 7, 1999.


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